Recipe Box | The Best Steak You’ll Ever Have

Happy Saturday y’all and happy GAME DAY to all of my fellow Carolina Panther fans!

Tonight, we are facing the Seattle Seahawks and its a big deal for those of us here in Carolina! Last week for the game, we all gathered at our friend Joe’s new pad and brought an assortment of delicious food to share. I made my famous sausage balls but there were some other notable treats (i.e. – caprese skewers, pigs in a blanket, chex mix and mimosas). For those of you who are gathering tonight to watch some football, may I suggest making the best (and I do mean the best) steak you’ll ever have. And get this…it is not done on a grill.

Now bear with me folks, I know this sounds crazy. But with it being unusually cold here, making this incredible, tender filet mignon can be done in a pan and finished off in the oven (restaurant style). This steak can be cut with a butter knife, and it’s decadent, full of flavor and absolutely to die for.

How did I find out about this? A girl friend/coworker told me about it…and I’m telling you, I will never eat a steak any other way again. I’m dead serious. We paired our filet with a spinach-artichoke dip twice baked potato. I’ve included that recipe as well. Enjoy!

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Best steak ever

 Recipe: Best Steak Ever

What you’ll need:

  • Filet Mignon (however many you need)
  • 1/2 Stick of Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Zest
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 3-4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

Directions:

  • Pour a little olive oil on each steak (both sides)
  • Grind a substantial amount of fresh pepper on both sides of the steak. Do not be shy, you want to coat it enough so that it almost forms a crust.
  • Sprinkle a good bit of sea salt on both sides. Do not be shy with this either…the salt will help tenderize the steak.
  • Let the steaks sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes so that salt and pepper goodness sinks in.
  • While steaks are marinating, take the half stick of butter and soften slightly so it is easy to mold.
  • Chop 1 tablespoon of parsley, garlic clove (minced) and zest the lemon to get 1 tablespoon of lemon zest. By hand, mix the softened butter, parsley, garlic and lemon zest and form into a log. Put in the fridge to chill.
  • Once steak is done marinating, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Put a little bit of butter in a baking dish and place it in the oven and let it sit while it preheats.
  • Put some olive oil in a pan on high (about 3-4 tablespoons).
  • Place the steaks on the pan when it is screaming hot.
  • Pan sear both sides of the steak until it is brown and forms a crust from the salt and pepper – approximately 2-3 minutes on each side.
  • Once finished, take the steaks and put them in the buttered baking dish in the oven and let them cook for about 6-8 minutes for medium rare. About 9-12 minutes for medium (You do not have turn the steaks over).
  • Remove the steaks from the oven, and plate. Take the special butter you made out of the fridge, and put a dollop on top of each.
  • Enjoy!

 

 Recipe: Spinach-Artichoke Dip Twice Baked Potato (Serves 6)

What you’ll need:

  • 3 Large Baking Potatoes
  • 2 Teaspoons of Olive Oil
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons Melted Butter
  • 9 Ounce Bag Fresh Spinach (Roughly Chopped)
  • 3 Tablespoons Cream Cheese (Softened)
  • 1/4 Cup of Sour Cream
  • 2 Tablespoons of Sea Salt (For Seasoning Potato Skins)
  • 6.5 Ounce Jar of Marinated Artichoke Hearts (Drained and Chopped)
  • 1/4 Cup of Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 4 Ounces of Shredded Fontina Cheese (Or a Similar Cheese)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Pierce the potatoes with a fork all over.
  • Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and put in oven for approximately 1.5 hours or until cooked all the way through (soft inside).
  • Take out of the oven and let them cool slightly.
  • While potatoes are baking, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat; add garlic and spinach. Cook the spinach until it is wilted (approximately 7 minutes).
  • When spinach is done, take out of the pan and put it in a strainer. Press against the spinach to remove any excess liquid.
  • When potatoes are cool enough to touch, slice in half lengthwise. Scoop out the middle of the potatoes into a bowl but be sure to leave enough of a border of potato to keep the shape of the skins.
  • Rub some olive oil on the skins and sprinkle with sea salt; set them on a baking sheet.
  • Mix the scooped out potatoes (in a bowl) with the cream cheese, 3/4 of the fontina cheese, sour cream, and melted butter until smooth. Fold in the spinach and artichokes.
  • Place the mixture inside each of the potato halves. Sprinkle the top with the parmesan cheese and remaining fontina cheese.
  • Place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes (or until cheese is melted on top).
  • Enjoy!
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Fall Favorites | Bucket List Edition

Happy Fall Y’all!

Last week, I decided to kick-off my “Fall Favorites” through the month of October (since it’s my favorite month and all). My previous post was the Style Edition which focused on cute kicks, scarves, hats and all of your autumn essentials! This week I wanted to focus more on my favorite part of Fall (I know…it’s surprising that clothes and accessories aren’t, right?). One word: activities. I mean, really…it would not truly be Fall without “autumn-esque” things to do. Now, please keep in mind that some of my suggestions are geared more toward the local, North Carolina-based crowd because I am providing specific examples, however, if you’re not in North Carolina, this may get your wheels turning as I’m sure you can find similar activities in your area! So without further adieu, enjoy my Fall Favorites – Bucket List Edition!

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1. Apple Picking / Hard Cider Drinking / Apple Pastry Tasting

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It’s not as cliche’ as you think, I promise. Grab your friends or your significant other, find a local apple orchard and make a day of it! The best part is that some of these orchards offer an array of different goods and activities beyond apple picking! Many of them even have hot, apple cider in addition to hard cider (when you’re craving an adult bev), as well as delicious apple donuts and pastries. There are a few I recommend in the Carolinas that are not far from all of you Charlotteans — Windy Hill Orchard & Cider Mill (in York, SC), Sky Top Orchard (in Flat Rock, NC) and Justus Orchard (in Hendersonville, NC).

2. Visit the Local Farmers Market

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Sure, you can do this practically any time of the year, but there is something very autumn about going to the Farmers Market to pick up some ingredients to make a delicious pie or strudel while grabbing a bunch of wildflowers to spruce up your cozy, little home. What a fun Saturday morning activity and a great way to kick-off your weekend! My absolute favorite Farmers Markets in Charlotte are: Atherton Mill, King’s Drive Farmer’s Market, & Charlotte Regional Farmers Market. I can say that I’ve been to all of them and they each offer something very special and unique – check it out if you haven’t already!

3. Visit the Biltmore & Watch the Leaves Change in Asheville, NC

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Asheville, NC is hands down one of my favorite cities in the U.S. It’s artsy, warm, quaint – but even more, as soon as autumn rolls around – the entire place transforms into a magical wonderland! I am absolutely convinced that there is no where else on this earth where the leaves change as beautifully as they do here. Plan a little weekend retreat in the beautiful North Carolina mountains, visit the largest privately owned home in the United States (the Biltmore Estate), and enjoy the scenic paradise that is Fall in Asheville.

4. Brewery Hop in Your Lovely City

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Who doesn’t enjoy a craft beer? Even more, a LOCAL craft beer? But even beyond that, a SEASONAL, local craft beer? I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. I’m a big fan of any type of Octoberfest type beer or a pumpkin beer – it’s pretty much my weakness. I am also a big fan of supporting local. So what better way to get into the Fall season than taking a little brewery hopping tour and checking out the craft beers each have to offer? It’s a great way to take in the autumn air, support your local businesses while enjoying a delicious beverage! My favorite local pumpkin beer is NoDa Brewing Company’s Gordgeous (and I may be just a tad biased because I love the people there). What are some other excellent breweries in the Charlotte area? Check out Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Triple C Brewing Company, Sugar Creek Brewing Company, Heist Brewery, Birdsong Brewing Company, The Unknown Brewing Company, Four Friends Brewing and more!

5. Pick a Pumpkin

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I know, I know. Traditional. But a classic. ‘Tis the season for pumpkin picking – and it never gets old!

6. Festivals, Festivals, Festivals!

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Autumn is the time for my favorite thing ever – FESTIVALS! Not even just music festivals…I’m talking legit festivals filled with activities and fun! It provides you with hours of enjoyment with your friends and loved ones – that’s a win in my book. Below are a list of my favorite local/North Carolina festivals that you should definitely add to your Fall Bucket List!

1. Carolina Balloon Fest

2. The Renaissance Festival

3. Uptown Charlotte BBQ & Blues Festival

4. Stechoa Valley Harvest Festival

5. North Carolina Oyster Festival

7. Create + Implement a Fall Tradition

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I am a HUGE fan of tradition and as a newly married couple (our 1 year is actually next weekend!), I want to create as many meaningful traditions as possible for us to carry with us our whole lives. My husband’s family’s tradition was making Cincinnati style chili and watching Halloween movies each October 31st while passing out candy to trick-or-treaters. Last year was the first year we adopted this same tradition because it was one that I want us (and our future family) to have. What traditions do you have or wish to have?

8. Go Camping / Eat S’mores / Sleep Under the Stars

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What is more satisfying on a crisp, Fall evening than sitting around a fire with some of your closest friends, making s’mores and sleeping under the stars? This was the first year I’ve ever gone camping in my almost 29 years on this planet – crazy, right!? And let me tell you, I had an absolute blast! Throw on the flannel shirt, grab a few pals and drive to the mountains or nearest campsite. Camping is a great activity for Autumn because it’s not too hot or too cold – enjoy the cool weather while it lasts!

9. Try Out Some New Fall Recipes

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What better way to embrace Autumn than utilizing the seasonal fruits and veggies available and implementing them in a meal? Below are a few of my favorite Fall recipes that you’ve got to check out!

Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts with a Maple Glaze

Root Vegetable Pan Roast with Chestnuts & Apples

Potato, Dried Apple & Chorizo Hand Pies

Bourbon Maple Apple Cider

Fall Browned Butter & Cinnamon Spiced Rice Krispie Treats

Twice Baked Butternut Squash

10. Snuggle Up with a Warm Throw + a Good Book

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As the weather gets cooler this season, take some time to yourself by snuggling up in a blanket on the couch while reading a good book – add a mug of hot chocolate and you have a recipe for pure bliss. There are so many incredible books out there that I’m dying to read this Fall. Below are the ones I have on my must-read list!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – I know, I’m a little late on this one because it’s already a movie but I REFUSE to see the movie until I’ve read the book – so I’ll probably knock this one out first.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham – Sounds extremely intriguing – about all of the experiences that make up your path in this world such as falling in love, feeling alone and more.

The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki – A historical novel about Benedict Arnold’s wife.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – Sounds gripping and suspenseful – check out the description on Amazon!

Wild by Cheryl Strayed – I’ve heard great things and it sounds super powerful – definitely looking to give it a go.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter – Takes place on the Italian coast…(#TBT take me back to our honeymoon in Positano, Italy). So reading this one.

Treat Yourself Tuesday | Summer Swag { Home Edition }

Hello, lovelies!

This warm weather has got me feeling very inspired – especially with July quickly approaching (goodness, time flies). Therefore, over the next few weeks I’m going to share some of my favorite items for the Summer season with you in a special blog mini series I like to call “Treat Yourself Tuesday”. (I apologize to your wallets in advance). The theme is “Summer Swag” and this week we will be focusing our attention on items that will complete your humble abode this Summer. Check out my Top 10 Must-Have Items For The Home This Season below. Enjoy!

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1. Okay, seriously, is this real life? Everyone loves a drink dispenser…especially for those Summer soirees! But a beverage dispenser that holds three different varieties of bevs together? Now, that’s magic. { Trio Beverage Dispenser from ZGallerie, $69.95 }

2. If you troll Pinterest like I do, I’m sure you’ve seen some pretty mouth-watering popsicle recipes. Simplify your life with this amazing pop maker that will make them in seven minutes or less. How about that for instant gratification on a hot Summer day? Oh, and this fun contraption comes in six different color choices. { Zoku Quick Pop Maker from Williams-Sonoma, $49.95 }

3. I’m not sure why, but I’ve been deeply fascinated with croquet for at least a solid year. I couldn’t tell you why, but it just seems like the perfect activity to go along with a cute Lilly Pulitzer dress and some lemonade – am I right? Lawn games are always fun with a group of friends. Play after a cook out, followed by a bonfire in the evening…sounds like the perfect day to me! { Verus Sports Expert Croquet Set from Target, $54.99 }

4. I can’t even take credit for this one because I was inspired to search for these bad boys after I saw them at my mother-in-law’s house. I’ve heard them called both “food domes” and “food tents” but their purpose is to shield your plates of food from insects and pests when you are hosting a dinner outside. GENIUS! And this food dome from World Market is just as darling as can be! { Willow Food Dome from World Market, $14.99 }

5. I’ve been eying different string lights for our house that we are moving into in a few short weeks. I am a sucker for lighting and I think a front porch or back deck lit up with these retro string lights would be simply divine. {Globe String Lights (25 ft)  from Amazon, $25.35}

6. Y’all…I wish I could even begin to explain my obsession with bar carts. In fact, it’s what I plan on adding to my wish list this holiday season (it’s never too early to start!). You can always find various styles of bar carts out there and they all range in price…but this one from CB2, Crate and Barrel’s contemporary counterpart, is perfect for the season (and trust, it’s one of the less expensive ones). { Porter Bar Cart from CB2, $399 }

7. I know that I am behind on the times but I just discovered my love for Moscow Mules – what a perfect Summer beverage! I had my very first one only a few months ago and fell head over heels in love. Ever since, I’ve been on the lookout for a set of adorable copper Moscow Mule mugs and just happened to stumble upon these lovelies from Birch Lane. I love that they are hammered copper rather than a smooth finish – it makes them a little more unique! How wonderful would it be to whip up your own Moscow Mules for a backyard gathering and serve them up in these? *Le Sigh* { Hammered Mule Mug Set of 4 from Birch Lane, $89 }

8. Who doesn’t love a picnic? This adorable picnic basket from Pottery Barn is precious beyond words and already comes lined with linen and a set of plates, wine glasses, flatware and bottle opener! { Rattan Picnic Basket for 2 from Pottery Barn, $99 }

9. So after tasting homemade ice cream, I immediately got on Crate & Barrel’s site and registered for this very one last year when the hubs and I were tying the knot. Turns out, it’s a pretty popular registry item…and rightfully so! It’s super easy to use and makes any flavor of ice cream OR frozen yogurt imaginable! What could possibly be more refreshing on a scorching Summer day? { Cuisinart Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt Maker from Crate & Barrel, $59.95 }

10. Needing a little inspiration for meals this season? I am always kind of stumped during the Summer but it should be less fuss than any other season and a reason to cook light. This recipe book from Anthropologie may be the answer! { Summer Food from Anthropologie, $32.50 }

Recipe Box | Fish with Mango-Avocado Salsa + Cauliflower Mash

So I’ve been really trying to eat on the lighter side and cooking with only fresh ingredients in an effort to eat clean. But I have to be honest, preparing some sort of lean protein and a random veggie just sounds…well, boring. My husband and I are both big foodies and love to take our palettes on an adventure. Not saying that all funky food is bad for you but what I am saying is that eating healthy takes a lot of thought and effort and you have to be careful with what you choose to consume.

After speaking with a couple of coworker girlfriends – I found a way to slightly reinvent the wheel. I was inspired by one of their suggestions which was doing a mashed cauliflower as a starch replacement. This is something I had seen on Pinterest before but had never heard of anyone actually trying it and let me just tell you, she raved about how good it was. As mentioned, I’m super valiant when it comes to food so I figured, why not give it a go?

I decided to accompany the cauliflower mash with fish as the main attraction. My husband and I both love seafood and knowing how good it is for you just makes it that much more satisfying. I had envisioned making a mango-avocado salsa to add on top of the fish so I wanted to find a tasty white fish. I went to the grocery store looking for something that was on special. To my surprise, I saw some beautiful swordfish filets that were relatively inexpensive. I love swordfish and it is not often that I come across it. I picked up the rest of my ingredients and managed to escape the store for around $30.

To make a long story short, dinner turned out just lovely and although Sean was a little skeptical about the cauliflower mash (he loves his potatoes), he was extremely impressed with how it turned out and tasted. Check out the recipe below – I would highly recommend it! Keep in mind, this delicious salsa mixture I created would be fantastic on chicken as well for those of you who don’t do fish. I baked the fish in the oven so you could do the same with the chicken although it would need a bit longer which will vary on the part of the chicken you decide to make.

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For the Fish:

I picked up two swordfish filets but you can use any white fish

For the Mango-Avocado Salsa:

2 medium-sized mangos

3 small-medium avocados

1/2 of a medium-large red onion

1/3 cup of fresh, chopped cilantro (you can add more if you like)

salt + pepper to taste

For the Cauliflower Mash:

1 medium head of cauliflower cut into florets

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

3/4 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives or green onion (garnish)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Heat a dutch oven on the stove with a water depth of 1/4 inch.
  • Prep the cauliflower head and chop into florets.
  • Put the florets into the dutch oven and cook covered for 7-10 minutes over medium-high heat.
  • While the oven is heating up and the cauliflower florets are cooking, prep all of the ingredients for the mango-avocado salsa. Chop everything up and combine it all in a medium bowl. You want everything to be mixed together so that it is all distributed evenly but not mashed (as we all know – avocado is very soft and delicate). Once this is complete, go ahead and cover the bowl and put it in the fridge to stay cold.
  • Lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Once the oven is heated, lightly salt and pepper the fish (on both sides) and then put them on the baking sheet. Stick the baking sheet in the oven and let the fish cook for 15 minutes.
  • Once the 15 minutes is up, take out the fish and turn them over. Cook for an additional 10 minutes.
  • While the fish is baking, drain the water from the cauliflower florets and put them in a food processor along with the Greek yogurt, salt and pepper for about 1 minute or until smooth. You may need to stop the food processor to scrape the sides as needed.
  • Place the blended cauliflower into a bowl and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Put this to the side.
  • Once the fish has cooked for the additional 10 minutes, take it out of the oven to cool.
  • Put the bowl of cauliflower mash in the microwave to head up for about 1 1/2 minutes on high (stirring about halfway through).
  • Arrange fish on on a plate, spoon the mango-avocado salsa on top of it. Add a lime wedge to the plate for some extra flavor. Add the cauliflower mash and garnish with the chives or green onion (if desired). Serve immediately.

This is a very simple dinner that is both delicious and healthy! You could even take the cauliflower mash a step further and make some brown butter on the stove to pour over it – it’s something I’m definitely going to be trying next time! If you’ve never given cauliflower mash a try before, I would highly recommend doing so (even if you are a little scared to step out of your comfort zone). Enjoy!

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Recipe Box | A North Carolina Exclusive: Atlantic Beach Pie

Alright y’all (I had to say y’all because this recipe encompasses the lovely, southern state of North Carolina) – so I read about this recipe almost a year ago on NPR‘s website regarding the Atlantic Beach Pie and almost dieeed. I’m a girl who loves sweets and anything that is a. local and b. getting this much attention from a national organization is something that I just have to try! So the long and short of it is, I found an article on NPR about the famous Atlantic Beach Pie that is a staple of the South. The recipe is from Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, NC. Katie Workman, the author of The Mom 100 Cookbook: 100 Recipes Every Mom Needs in Her Back Pocket, says it’s the best pie she’s ever had. She states “I think the only reaction I had was, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.’ For quite a while that was pretty much the only thing I could say.” {For more of this story, click here}. I am a Carolina girl (born and bred) and the fact that this was something I had been possibly missing out on all of my life kind of ached my soul. So of course, I had to get on this and make it ASAP.

First and foremost – thank you NPR for sharing this recipe with the world – what a gem! Let me just tell you how awesome this pie was…wowza. It is just as incredible as you would think it would be – it is the perfect blend of salty and sweet. The pie has a tangy, citrus and dense custard-like filling and is topped with light and fluffy homemade whipped cream…HEAVEN. ON. EARTH.

So without further adieu, below is the recipe. Enjoy!

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For the crust:

1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers

1/3 to 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter

3 tablespoons sugar

 

For the filling:

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup lemon or lime juice or a mix of the two (I mixed the two)

Fresh whipped cream (recipe below) and coarse sea salt for garnish

 

For the fresh whipped cream:

2 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream

2 1/2 tablespoons of sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Directions for the whipped cream:

  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Beat mixture with a whisk until stiff, firm peaks form (if you’re unsure of what this looks like, please take a look here). You’re going to need to practice some patience here – it could take several minutes.
  • Cover and chill.

 

Directions for the pie:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Crush the crackers finely, but be careful not to crush them too fine or they will turn more into dust. (I used a food processor but you can use your hands.)
  • Add the sugar to the crushed crackers, then knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like dough. Press into an 8 inch pie pan.
  • Chill the crust in the pie pan for 15 minutes in the fridge.
  • Take it out and stick it in the oven. Bake for 18 minutes or until the crust colors a little.
  • While the crust is cooling, beat the egg yolks into the milk, then beat in the citrus juice. It is important to completely combine these ingredients. Pour into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until the filling has set. The pie needs to be completely cold to be sliced. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt on top.

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